How to record family history?

Andrew Ronald

Andrew Ronald
Written by: Andrew Ronald

21 April, 2022

I set about discovering the best way to record family history in 2019, prompted by unexpected health problems facing both parents. I realised that so much of our family’s history and knowledge rests with them. Life can change unexpectedly at any time, as their illnesses proved. And if we time our actions badly, so much family information would be lost. It was my wake-up call to record our family’s history. And to do it now, before it’s too late.

In this post I’m sharing the solutions I found on how to record family history. I hope you find the solution you need.

record family history with more than just photos

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Simple Solutions


A book is timeless and can be physically passed down between generations. You might write it by hand. Or create a scrapbook that includes photos and interesting paperwork such as postcards. You can create beautiful books digitally and have them printed using services like Apple, Weeva and Shutterfly. For inspiration on what to write, try Storyworth where a question is sent each week for a year to a family member, and their answers are bound in a book.

We love books, but they have their limitations too. Once printed you can’t update it with extra or new materials. And without video and sound they are not as vibrant as digital records. We are excited to receive books but they are not opened as often as they should be. They are not searchable for keywords of interest. And books are only useful to people who are physically next to them.



With digital diaries like Dayone it’s easy to go back in time and record your family’s history. You can even add photos, videos, audio and set locations. Because this is digital, it’s always with you and can evolve (unlike books) over time.

However, being a ‘diary’ is something for one person. You can’t collaborate with others. No sharing. That’s not a problem though if recording your family history is a solo project.


Video and Voice

I asked friends what they used to record their family history. One answer I heard multiple times was to record interviews with family members using video or audio. This is a great idea and those digital files are really precious.

There are even services that can help you record audio stories, such as Storycorps and Recordmenow.

But how do you make the most of these video and voice recordings? How can these files become a part of your daily life, and not sit gathering digital dust? How do you combine these files with relevant photos and written stories? And how easy is it to find a specific recording when you want to?  Depending on your needs, it might not be a complete solution.

Advanced Solutions

Shared documents

Solutions like Google Documents and Google Photos give you and your family the chance to co-author digital documents, share photos and upload videos to shared folders. All aspects of your family history can be recorded, and for free if you do not exceed your storage limit. You can even enjoy daily photo anniversary notifications, to connect your family’s past with your day-to-day.

These services offer a cost-effective and flexible way to save all aspects of your family history to the cloud. They offer a ‘blank page’ where you can create whatever you like. But it’s really up to you and your family to work at it. Google is not custom-designed for recording and accessing family history. It’s an incredibly versatile tool for all kinds of projects. Also note that like many free or low-cost services, you are ‘paying’ with your personal data. Your data is used to enhance the marketing profile they hold for you, so they can sell you products and services more effectively.


Memory Recorders

Some apps offer ways to digitise memories. The well known Evernote is on a mission to help you remember everything, in work and personal life. It’s amazing. You can co-create digital scrapbooks on all aspects of your family history. It’s a very powerful tool with lots of features, including many that are not relevant to your family’s history.

Apps including Memories and Memorykpr offer ways to capture memories with text, audio, photos and videos. With a focus on media files over text-based memories. You can go back in your calendar to attach your family’s history to relevant dates. The result is a timeline showing media files of events, with text as an accompaniment.

Story Recorders

There are services that focus on stories with media files to support. You can tell your family history in stories at Lifestories and Storychest. Or using Hereafter you can build stories with the assistance of an intelligent robot.

Genealogy Sites

Sites like Ancestry, Familysearch and Myheritage offer a way to search for ancestors in official documents and add information to their biographies. A great way to share details of family members with other users of those services.

Our Family's Solution

Our Needs

We were looking for a service which could provide an exciting and meaningful family experience. Our family history can’t be recorded by one person alone – it’s a family project. Which meant we needed individual access for all family members, co-authoring options and an uncomplicated service that everyone could understand. Something streamlined for stories about our family, and accessible to everyone from all devices, everywhere. A service where the experience is just as important as the outcome.

We wanted some inspiration to help us record our family history in the best way possible. Given an empty document to fill or a folder to add content to, it would feel too much like work.

We wanted media rich stories to capture our family history, blending text with photos, videos and voice recordings. Ideally with options to tag people, stories and locations. But we wanted to keep these stories private, so people outside the family (including the service provider) could not access them.

And we wanted to interact with our family’s history each day. Enjoying reminders of past events and learning about what’s happening now in our family’s lives.


Our Solution

Some of the services listed previously were already a part of our lives for different purposes. They are great services. But none seemed to do everything we wanted as a family recording our history.

We built Simirity to address our family needs, as listed above. Depending on your family’s needs, Simirity might be good for you too.

Next Steps

This post is about different ways to ‘record family history’, but ultimately that is not your goal. Why do you want to do this? To uncover your family roots? To work with your family on a shared project? To preserve these stories for future generations? To connect with your family in the process?

Take a moment to consider what the best outcome of recording your family history could be. What could you win? Use this to make your list of ‘family needs’. Then test out suitable services listed above. Many have free options to get started with. They might be a perfect match. 

You may also be interesting in honing your family ‘interviewing’ techniques with these tips.

If your family’s needs are similar to my family’s, Simirity might be of interest to you. Explore our website to learn more or jump straight in with a free account.

However you do it, do it! Your family’s history is too important to lose.

Categories:  Family,  All Posts

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